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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My First Part-time Job in Taiwan

Wayne Cheah

One of my junior year resolutions was to get a part time job here in Taiwan before I graduated from university. I thought I would like to experience the working environment in Taiwan and get a feel for the local culture by working part time. I believed that it would be a wonderful experience in my university life. I discovered that it was really a memorable experience after working part time.

In early September, when I first came back to Taiwan from Malaysia, I tried to find a job by searching a few Internet sites for openings. I applied for more than 50 jobs ranging from the education sector to the service industry. It is really convenient to search for a job now. There is a website in résumé format that allow you to fill in all your personal details, education background, and working experience. With that, you can have a complete resume to send out. A few days after sending out my online résumé, I got a phone call from the human resources department of a local hotel, Tempus Hotel, to attend an interview. I was really excited about the interview because I had not expected to get a phone call in such a short time.

On the interview day, I arrived early to avoid being late. When I reached the human resources office, I looked for Ms. Hsu. She was the person who had called that day. She handed me some forms to fill in, made a copy of my working permit, and directed me to a meeting room. They asked me a few questions during the interview. Ms. Hsu asked, "Do you know how to speak Chinese? Because you are applying as a waiter in the western restaurant, you need to be able to converse with customers." My immediate answer was that I could speak fluent Chinese. I told her that I could even speak English, Malay, and Cantonese. She was quite impressed that I could speak so many languages. We Malaysians speak many languages; this is one reason why I feel so proud of my country! She also asked me whether I had any working experience. I told her that this would be my first work experience in Taiwan if the hotel were willing to hire me. I asked some simple questions too about the salary and the working shift times. The interview ended in a pleasant way with no tricky questions being asked. I felt great about the interview. I wasn’t nervous from the beginning till the end of the interview because it was just a casual interview with some simple questions being asked.

Three weeks later, while I was in class, I received a phone call from Ms. Hsu. She asked me whether I was interested in working at a wedding dinner as a waiter. I had first applied as a waiter to work in their western restaurant, but I said I would like to give it a try. Therefore, I promised Ms. Hsu to work the coming Sunday. I bought a pair of black leather shoes for work as it is required by the hotel. I was reluctant to buy the shoes at first because I hadn’t even started to earn money yet, and I was already spending NT$700 on a pair of shoes!

Photo by (and of) the author

On my first working day, I arrived early to meet with Ms. Hsu. She took me around so that I could become familiar with the working place. She also took me to the staff room to collect my work uniform. The uniform was a white waiter’s shirt with a standing collar and a pair of long black pants. I looked good and neat in that uniform. It had been years since I wore a uniform. Later on, Ms. Hsu took me to the worker's restaurant so that I could have my lunch before I started working. I had steamed fish and some vegetables with rice. I didn't pay so much attention to my food and didn't even finish it as I was busy observing the people around me. Most of the people around were just like me, youngsters working part-time in a hotel. They wore different uniforms, though, some in black suits and some in purple bellman’s jackets. When I realized I was running out of time, I quickly ran to the back side of the banquet room as Ms. Hsu had shown me.

Everyone gathered behind the wedding room for a briefing. The Head Waiter briefed us on the wedding plan and the food that was going to be served, so that we knew what to tell the guests. Since I was new, I got assigned to Aaron, my coworker. Aaron taught me a lot about my work. I was assigned two tables for which I would be responsible. Aaron and I made sure that the tables were set and that we had enough cutlery, plates, and napkins at our station. When the wedding started, the Head Waiter at the entrance of the banquet room escorted the guests to their tables. When my table was filled with guests, Aaron instructed me to fill their glasses with orange juice. I had to make sure every empty glass was always filled with drinks while the guests were waiting for their dishes. Dishes would be served one at a time. I cleared dirty plates and cutlery from the tables when they had finished their food. If the guests could not finish a dish, I asked if they would like to pack it for take-out or not. If not, I would take the leftover food to the kitchen and throw it into a huge rubbish bin. You wouldn't believe the amount of leftover food that is produced at a wedding dinner! It felt like such a waste to throw all that leftover food away.

I also had to maintain the tidiness of my working station throughout the wedding. Then, after the wedding banquet was over, we prepared the station for the next event. We changed the table cloths, folded and arranged the napkins, polished the cutlery, and set the tables. My day ended at around 10pm. It was exhausting.

The job had its ups and downs. The best part of the job was that I could earn extra money. The extra cash from the part time job could cover some of my living costs in Taiwan and allow me to save some money. Other than that, I could make some local friends, too. I believe that knowing the local people allows me to know a place more easily. I also developed some good working ethics when working part time. For example, I had to work as a member of a team at the wedding banquet. This experience will equip me with the skills needed to work with people of varying personalities at future jobs. I think this skill will benefit me throughout my life.

The worst part of the job was that I was super busy during the wedding banquet. There was no rest time during my working hours, so I was super tired after work. I returned home with my feet swollen and my whole body falling apart. Another bad part of the job was that the food that I served was all too appetizing! I get hungry very easily when I see such nice food.

The biggest lesson that I learned from working part time was that earning a single penny is not as easy as I had imagined. Now, I will have to spend it wisely as it was so hard to earn. Another big lesson was how to manage my time effectively. When I first decided to work part time, I knew I would have to leave aside some time for a spot of fun because I would have little free time during the week. I had to become more organized with my schedule and plan wisely to meet assignment deadlines, so that I could find a balance between studying and working. I believe that effective time management will benefit both my studies and my life after university.

The benefits of working part time go beyond earning extra pocket money. I appreciate every working opportunity in my life because that's the process of growing up. I think that ALL university students should get a part-time job since it is a good way to gain valuable life experience.

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